FRINGE Anna Torv Interview

Olivia Dunham talks season five

Fringe 's leading lady on the radical changes in season five, playing multiple Olivias and the end

Every new season of Fringe has messed with the show's status quo, but never have we seen a gamechanger of the scale of season five's opening. Returning to the Observer-ruled 2036 established in one-off season four episode "Letters Of Transit", the new season sees the Fringe team awakened after two decades in amber to take the fight to their trilby-wearing oppressors. Last thing we knew, Olivia Dunham was missing in action, but we don't think it's giving too much away to say she doesn't stay missing for long – otherwise this interview with leading lady Anna Torv might have been rather brief...

With the new setting, does working on the show feel radically different this year?
Yes and no. Your work day is still kind of the same, and we’re still working with all the same people so that’s just extraordinarily familiar having been doing this for four years [laughs]. But, of course, we’re in a completely different time, and so, there’re a few things that come with that. It’s always lovely at the beginning of each season, we always end up doing something that’s a little bit of a reset or a little bit of a reboot and that kind of adds energy and a different kind of flavour to the seasons.

How far in advance do the writers let you know what’s coming?
It’s usually you get the script and it’s a great big surprise to see what you’re doing next – we’ll get the next episode the last couple of days that we’re shooting the one prior. This season is the first time that we’ve been let in a little bit more than usual, so we have a little bit more of an understanding about the big kind of things that will happen when and where, and a little bit of where we’re going. So we have more responsibility than we have before but I think that comes with knowing that it is our last season

This has been confirmed as your final season, so – unlike most shows – you know when the end is coming. Has that changed the way you’ve looked at this season?
It’s a real blessing, and I think particularly for guys that have been writing and creating our show, for them to have the opportunity to kind of finish the way they want it to end – which is very rare – we feel very fortunate. Our viewers have stuck with us and they are really responsible for us being able to do this season and have a proper send-off.

The Observers have always been a part of Fringe but we’ve only just learned who they are and what they’re up to. Did you have any theories of your own?
I didn’t. I don’t know why I didn’t, I think because I just always loved the idea of them. And Michael Cerveris, who played September, our original Observer, came in and created this kooky, awesome way of speaking, a way of being, a way of walking. I think there was a fascination with him and so, I think, I was just always fascinated as opposed to trying to figure out what their function was.

Olivia’s now a mum (to the grown-up Henrietta) and is living in the future. How has she changed this year?
She’s sort of dealing with a child who’s not really a child. But Olivia’s Olivia [laughs] and so it’s not like we’re gonna see a situation where we suddenly have this exciting new character walk out. It’s Olivia, but in, you know, these kind of different circumstances.

Thanks to Fringe’s universe-hopping antics, you’ve played at least three incarnations of Olivia. Do you look at them as different characters?
I looked at alt-universe Olivia, Bolivia, as obviously a different character, but then when the two had switched roles, and when Olivia thought she was the other, that was sort of the same character, but just a little bit different. Apart from that, Olivia’s just been Olivia.

The Olivia from this universe started off very buttoned down. When you got the opportunity to play the more outgoing alt-Olivia, did you see it as a chance to let your hair down?
I just love the alt Olivia. The days when I was playing the alt-Olivia were just easier, she was just so quick to laugh, and quick to smile. She made me happy, you know. Not that I don’t love our Olivia, but our Olivia just carries so much on her shoulders. Alt-Olivia had a different function in the show as well, there was this freedom in being second-in-charge, she didn’t have to carry the weight of the cases, because that was Lincoln’s job in the alternate universe. Even that was freeing, she could be the sidekick a little bit more, whereas our Olivia is constantly responsible for saving the world.

Fringe season five comes to Sky1 on Wednesday 24 October at 10pm.

Read our reviews of the current season [beware spoilers!] here.

We recommend